Those of us in the workforce don’t really get to experience Spring Break with the same hedonistic fervor as college students, but the combination of St. Patrick’s Day and the Big 12 basketball tournament gives even the most buttoned-down visitor to Kansas City a great excuse to kick back and do a little day drinking.
Holiday: St. Patrick’s Day events
If imbibing until you’re green is less a priority than showing the family a good time, take advantage of the holiday falling on a Sunday to see the 41st annual Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a bona fide big city event where the streets overflow with people, parade floats and lots of free candy.
The parade starts at Broadway and Linwood (33rd) Streets in Midtown Kansas City and winds its way to Westport, which by that point in the day will have already reached a fever pitch.
This year’s parade theme is “Gathering of the Clans,” and whether you’ve got any Irish blood or not, you’ll feel welcome amid the diverse group of people the event brings out each year.
I’ve been several times, and the ridiculous costumes, men on stilts, boisterous floats and drum lines (especially the Marching Cobras) never disappoint.
For a full list of parking locations, parade floats and vendors, visit kcirishparade.com.
If you’re planning to attend Lawrence’s parade instead, you can still catch a parade in Kansas City the day before. The Snake Saturday parade in North Kansas City, now in its 30th year, is a slightly more family-friendly affair that includes attractions like pony rides, a car show and an Irish festival. “Irish Roots and Cowboy Boots” is this year’s theme, and the event lasts from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visit snakesaturday.com for more details.
Parades aside, St. Patrick’s Day in Kansas City is basically a party anywhere you choose to find it. As the parade destination and the region’s oldest bar district, Westport is the natural choice to celebrate.
Kelly’s Westport Inn (500 Westport Road), which opens Sunday at 10 a.m., and nearby Harling’s Upstairs (3941 Main) are the traditional hotspots.
My recommendation is the classier Californos (4124 Pennsylvania, californos.com), where visitors can enjoy a brunch buffet of corned beef, cabbage and cake ($14 for adults, $7 for kids under 12). Californos will be featuring live music all day on the patio, with the wonderful, rabble-rousing KC Bear Fighters kicking things off at 11:30 a.m. There’s a $3 cover for bands.
Final word of advice on St. Patrick’s Day: Things can get fairly raucous, so be sure to know your limits, designate a sober driver and look out for each other. I’d recommend getting started early and heading home shortly after the parade, as green beer tends to operate under a law of diminishing returns after a certain pint.
Sports: Big 12 tournament
As Jayhawk hoops fans are surely aware, this week is the 2013 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament, held at the Sprint Center and encompassing most of downtown Kansas City.
Tickets are a pretty penny, ranging from $195 to $330 (not including fees) for all-session tickets. But as teams drop out, there will be chances to buy tickets on the street, so bring cash and a willingness to haggle. If you go, look for the Jayhawks to take the court wearing their new, um, more colorful camo uniforms.
Even if you don’t plan on entering the Sprint Center, the big-game atmosphere is present throughout the Power & Light District, with charter buses clogging the streets, hot dog vendors on every block, and fans of all 10 teams out in full force. The giant screen in the KC Live! courtyard (the P&L district epicenter) broadcasts every game, providing a communal watch party the length of a city block. You must be 21 or over to enter.
The whole family can take part in the Big 12 Phillips 66 Street Festival, which includes outdoor basketball games, shooting contests, a car display, and other activities all along Grand Boulevard outside the Sprint Center.
Visit big12sports.com for more info on the Street Festival and the tournament itself.
Sports: Sporting KC's home opener
If all that isn’t enough excitement, Saturday is the home opener for the city’s soccer superheroes, Sporting KC, who take on rivals the Chicago Fire at 2 p.m. at Sporting Park (near the Kansas Speedway). For ticket information, visit sportingkc.com/tickets.
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— Lucas Wetzel grew up in Westwood, Kan., graduated from KU in 2004, and has since worked as a freelance writer, editor and language trainer in Leipzig, Germany, and Kansas City, Mo.